Los Angeles Dodgers
At the trade deadline in 2021, the San Diego Padres were trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers by just two games in the win column as they both attempted to chase down the San Francisco Giants in the NL West.
The Padres believed they found the perfect piece in order to leap ahead of the Dodgers: future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer. It seemed like a done deal that Scherzer would be a Padre up until the last minute. Then the Dodgers swooped in and stole him away. The Padres never recovered, going 18-36 the rest of the season and finishing 27 games back of the Dodgers and 28 back of the Giants.
Not this time. General Manager A.J. Preller and the Padres front office have had enough of playing the little brother to the juggernaut 120 miles north along California’s Pacific Coast.
The acquisition of Soto makes the Padres an instant threat to the Dodgers, not just in 2022 but for years to come. Soto remains under contract through the 2024 season, leaving the Dodgers having to contend with a lineup that also includes Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado.
Soto, a Hall of Fame-caliber player still, at the age of 23, in the prime of his career, would elevate any team’s lineup. But the Padres could use his production as much as any club. Their outfielders have hit the third-fewest home runs in the league this season, ahead of just the Tigers and Guardians. They have the fifth-worst OPS; Soto, even with his numbers down from his MVP-contending season last year, is still fifth in the NL in OPS.
The Dodgers were in contention for Soto, along with the Padres and Cardinals. This is a franchise that is used to getting what it wants. They’ve won the NL West eight of the last nine years (finishing a game back of the Giants in 2021) and are firmly in front again this year. The Dodgers are perennial World Series contenders, the Padres merely a nuisance to swat away on their way to playing deep into October.
They can’t expect that any longer. Soto is coming to Southern California and the Padres are a real threat to the Dodgers’ hegemony over the division.